Wait on the Lord
Last week, we considered Thanksgiving as a fruitful but optional observance. Everything which the Scriptures oblige us to do are fruitful, but not everything which may be fruitful is obligatory, so we are at liberty to recommend such practices without attempting to bind them on anyone. This week, I want to recommend another such practice.
Today is the first of four Sundays in a period traditionally known as Advent. The name comes from the Latin adventus, which means “arrival.” This refers to the Lord’s first coming, the Incarnation which we read of in the Gospels. Before the Lord’s birth, God’s people were waiting. God had promised them a Messiah who would grant them relief (Is 52.9), freedom (Is 48.20), and a new covenant (Jer 31.31-34). He gave them signs to mark the Messiah’s arrival (Mic 5.2, cf. Matt 2.1-6; see also Dan 10-12), but He did not specify the time of the arrival in any conventional sense. Instead, He simply instructed His people to wait and to endure (Dan 12.10-12).
The birth of Christ brought an end to the waiting of God’s people. “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God…” (Luke 2.25-28). Likewise, “There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2.36-38).
Our Lord fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. He came “to proclaim good news to the poor, …liberty to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4.18-10; cf. Is 61.1-2). He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Our Lord is once again absent in the flesh. Now we await His coming like God’s people did in former times. We wait because He has told us that He will return again: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14.1-3). We live in constant expectation of His return, as He taught us to do: “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Matt 24.42-46). Like the people of old, we wait, and we endure.
Advent is a convenient time to focus our thoughts and our prayers on our waiting. Why observe such a remembrance now? Because of another optional observance, Christmas. Since Christmas commemorates the first arrival of Our Lord, it is fitting that we now consider our own waiting for His second arrival.
Let us consider that we are strangers in a strange land: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever,” so, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 2.15-17; 3.13).
Wait on the Lord. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved…. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” (2 Pet 3.9-13).